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Staff Sergeant William Pitsenbarger These Things We Do … That Others May Live

William Pitsenbarger, born and raised in Piqua, Ohio, joined the US Air Force in 1962, enlisting as a pararescueman. He trained extensively and arrived in Vietnam in August 1965, where he completed more than 250 rescue missions.

On April 11, 1966, in thick jungle near Saigon, a company of 134 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division were surrounded by a Viet Cong battalion of about 500 troops. In a fierce firefight, the enemy pinned down the Americans. As the battle went on, US casualties grew steadily.

Pitsenbarger, flying aboard an Air Force HH-43F Huskie helicopter, volunteered to be lowered to the ground to help. He descended a hundred feet into the firefight with a medical bag, splints, a rifle, and a pistol. As darkness fell, Pitsenbarger cared for the wounded and repeatedly collected and distributed ammunition to the surviving soldiers under fire. In the early evening, he was mortally wounded fighting alongside the infantrymen.

For coordinating successful rescues, caring for the wounded, and sacrificing his life while aggressively defending his comrades, Pitsenbarger received the Air Force Cross and was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant.

In 2000, the USAF upgraded his award to the Medal of Honor. His parents received the medal on his behalf at the National Museum of the USAF. A 2019 Hollywood film called “The Last Full Measure” tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s Medal of Honor.

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